28 February – 4 March
5 days, 4 nights
Spring Break in Florence was marvelous, for many reasons. I was lucky enough to have two friends to go with, Charlotte and Callum! I still can’t believe we pulled it off, guys. We just went, easy as that. Bought the plane tickets and booked the hostel just days before our departure, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
The trip had unpleasant moments, from struggling to find the hostel the first night, to forcing ourselves to get up early nearly every morning.
However, the positives clearly outweighed the negatives, and the negatives are just funny stories now. We managed to find a free tour the morning of our first full day, and started to untangle the curvy streets of Florence. On Wednesday, we only waited 20 minutes in line at the Uffizi; I’d heard horror stories about waiting six hours! The following day, the security guard at the Galleria dell’Accademia recognized us from the Uffizi, and let us go right in even when the metal detector beeped. We were on our best behavior, and people were polite for the most part, apart from the occasional bump on the sidewalk or uppity shopkeeper.
As I walked around those museums I heard echoes of my freshman year art history professors, and I wished they were right there next to me to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I could picture it. ‘Dumbledore’ was talking slowly and descriptively, spelling out nearly ever word. Sunyal was jumping and yelling and waving his hands, shoving my shoulder when tears of exhausted joy started creeping out the corners of my eyes.
The first thing I got excited about was a piece by Giotto. There were so many of Mary and Baby Jesus, and I had a great time comparing compositions and guessing which ones were done first, then looking at the years. I guess something from freshman year stuck, because I guessed pretty well!
I gave Botticelli’s Venus plenty of attention, and looked for process inspiration in a large sketch by Michelangelo. You could always tell which paintings were the most famous, as they were behind glass. After a certain point I didn’t care whether I’d remember all the titles or not, I focused on soaking up the details and colors in real life. You can always Wikipedia things later. There was a marvelous room with white and gold detailing on the ceiling.
I laughed when I realized one of my favorite rooms was the Dutch painting room. All the way to Italy and it’s clear I picked the right place to study abroad. I also enjoyed studying the different ‘accessories’ statues stood near to, ever so casually, trying to convince the viewer they didn’t need to lean on anything to hold themselves up. That stump/draped cloth is there for a reason, marble buddy. I see it.
I think I gave the statue of Laocoon and His Sons the most attention. I recognized it and spent a lot of time with it, gawking from different angles. I could almost feel what it felt like to push away a huge snake. The snake has a very amusing face, which I hadn’t noticed before.
Another surprise was the gravestone display. I’m pretty sure they were gravestones, I was a bit distracted by the writing on them. Most people walked by them; I imagine this is due to the location near the restrooms. I swear I’m not trying to behave like this, it just happens. I squatted down and crab-legged along, so close to them, so tempted to trace the letters with my fingers. (There was no buzzer system, and no guard around, but I still didn’t. Getting arrested is not on my to do list, even if it’s for type’s sake. Still, close call.) It was amazing to see such early engravings of the letters we know today, serifs and all. Most were dated from early A.D., some B.C. I remembered my Typography I professor explaining that serifs came about because the engraver’s chisel needed somewhere to start from.
I had a lot of time at the Uffizi, so looped around quite a bit and revisited my favorites.
The next day at the Galleria dell’Accademia was mostly about Michelangelo’s David. There was also a section about the history of instruments, and one interactive feature, a musical water dish. One person rubbed the handles, to create sound in the water basin, and if you touched the person’s arm, you could feel the vibrations.
We wandered the room near the entrance, looking at paintings, as I danced around my friends eagerly, going on about wanting to see ‘Dave’. It wasn’t the first thing we saw as we walked in, so I worried we hadn’t found it. Then I turned a corner and looked up. Found it. I wasn’t expecting to be as stunned as I was. I’d seen photos but you can’t absorb how tall it is until you see it. There he stood, planning his next move. We all know he defeated Goliath, but from this interpretation of that moment, it seems he was very unsure. His base was surrounded by glass. We wondered how many people tried to jump the fence every year, and again, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I walked around him several times, stopping by whenever we passed the hall again. As we finally headed to the exit, I heard a youngster ask his parents, “Why is he naked?!” and I laughed and my awe subsided.
What goes well with marvelous art? Marvelous food. Over the course of five days, we had pizza, pasta, bread, bruschetta, sandwiches, lasagna, fresh tomatoes, basil, pastries, espresso, and scoop after scoop of gelato. If I could eat it all again, I would, including my scary moment when I realized ordering pasta with prawns meant getting something with the eyes still on!
Thursday was my day to explore the leather markets. I was exhausted after about two hours. A lot of the sellers were outgoing, yelling and cracking jokes. (Some of the shoppers in the market were asking for it…) One man ran a lit lighter along the edge of a bag to show me it was real leather. Another pointed to my boots and called me Lady Gaga, insisting that he had a leather jacket that matched, that I could have for free, as his family cracked up. I laughed and ran off. I talked to one quiet young salesman who had just started working in the market. He made a lot of what he sold, journals and bracelets, and his uncle dyed the paper for some of the pretty marbled covers. Being connected to your work and knowing your customer must be satisfying.
I ended up buying a red belt from a saleswoman who never yelled, ahahah.
Our hostel was surprisingly nice, and we had a balcony with a lovely view of the tip of the Duomo. Sometimes in the morning I’d stand out there and watch the cats wander the rooftops. Charlotte and I tried to sit out one night but it was too cold!
By the time we left the fast cars and endless tiny streets were no longer a threat, it seemed a pity to leave when we felt we’d figured it all out. Things definitely stuck with us, we kept saying “Ciao” and “Gratzia” to shop clerks, even when we arrived back in Rotterdam.
Excitedly sitting on the FYRA (high-speed train) from Rotterdam to Schiphol
Our lovely hostel
Our balcony view at night, and, day...
So adorable together!
Do not knock on heaven's door, Ghiberti the competition winner will be mad
Real Italian Espresso!